Nothing is more frustrating than sitting at work and getting that drowsy feeling when you can barely hold your head up and your eyelids becomes heavier and heavier. We all get sleepy, but it seems that sleep is often overlooked. I once had a teacher that told me if I ever needed to sacrifice anything, sacrifice sleep. Now I know that is about the worst advice I’ve ever heard. Sleep is critical to our proper functioning as humans. Sleep is a vital component of life in most all species. Without it, we can’t survive. Sleep is a mysterious state that scientists are still trying to figure out, but science for sure recognizes its importance. So how is sleep really relevant to the workplace? Having employees that are well rested makes a huge difference in employee productivity and motivation. In particular, sleep deprivation research has become more critical in our society because we have shifted to a 24-hour work day. With shift work becoming more and more common and employee sleep schedules are becoming more irregular, it is important to consider what the consequences of these circumstances may be. When employees become sleep deprived their body goes into a stressful state. Our bodies like to stay in a certain rhythm, called the circadian rhythm, where we should be awake during the day and asleep during the night. When we interrupt that natural sleep cycle, it results in a stressful condition.
So, how can we help it? It is difficult, especially for workers that work night-shifts or irregular shifts. For those who are more fortunate and have daytime jobs that allow a steady sleep schedule, there are some simple tips that can help to keep sleep times regular and individuals happier and more productive. From personal experience and general research conclusions, it has shown to be best to keep a routine sleep schedule. While sleeping in on the weekends is blissful after a long week, it is best for our bodies if we keep a steady sleep schedule. Trying to wake up and go to bed around the same time every day helps keep our body on a routine and avoid nights where we can’t go to sleep. If you do have a night where you lose a lot of sleep, try not to “binge sleep” the next day to try to make up for it. We don’t actually make up for sleep in that way, so it’s best to try to go right back to the regular sleep schedule. If you don’t get enough sleep at night, a power nap can always be helpful! If you want to make up for lost sleep, it’s best to take a 90 minute nap, because that allows enough time for our body to cycle through all of the sleep stages. But even if you can’t afford a 90 minute nap, small naps are good for us, as long as they aren’t too late in the day to interfere with being able to go to sleep that night. A final tip that I have found helpful regarding sleep is to time your sleep to wake up during what is called REM sleep. This is when we are basically the closest to being awake, so we feel better if we wake up during this stage. You can wake up during REM sleep most likely by timing your sleep time to 90 minute increments, so sleeping 7 ½ or 9 hours would most likely allow you to wake up during this stage. The way to tell if you were in REM sleep when you wake up is if you remember what you were dreaming. Lastly, as a general rule, we should basically never get less than 7 ½ hours of sleep a night. For most of us this is much easier said than done, but if we can achieve about that much sleep or more we will feel much better. Sleep is still mysterious and there’s a lot to be understood, but if we take advantage of what we do know we can get the most out of our sleep. When we are well rested, we can have fewer of those days of nodding off at the office and be happier and more productive employees and individuals!